Green pastures and quiet waters. David was reflecting on his lifestyle - one that included supernatural moments of sanctuary that restored his soul. I love the poignant imagery of Psalm 23 – no lack, quiet rest, an overflowing cup and a table spread. It's the prepared table that most captures my imagination though because this isn't a table prepared for a family meal at the end of the day or a table prepared for a nice celebration dinner. This table is set in the middle of a battle. Set right there in the presence of his enemies.
The Psalm conjures up a vivid scene. Here is a great king with armies to lead and a battle not yet won. He's in the midst of fierce conflict. Utterly focused, I see him engrossed with the defeat of the enemy in front of him.
Yet in that moment of exhilaration and exhaustion, desperation and determination, dread and even disgust, something other-worldly takes place. David feels unnerved at first; a strange wave of peace is sweeping slowly towards him, disturbing the regular ring of steel on steel. A mounting silence builds, interrupting the final gasps of dying men and the cries of horror David has become so accustomed to at times like this. He tries to shake it off, but it's real. The quiet has distracted him as much as it has ruined the concentration of his quarry. Even the enemy seems to have wearily disengaged from the fight.
Then, striding across the battlefield, He came, striding forward with carefree steps, holding a picnic hamper in one hand and a blanket in the other. Opposing sides step back to allow Him passage, resting silently on their swords with heads bowed. By the time of His arrival, the whole field is pin-drop still. It's the Lord - the Lord who is Strong in Battle - coming to a stop right there, in the midst of the carnage, finding an open place, spreading the blanket, unpacking the hamper and beckoning to David.
The young king made his way over to join Him, seated on the ground. There, for him to take his fill of, is joy, food, drink, and rest. He soon felt revived, refreshed, restored. Soon enough the battle is re-joined but David is not the same man. Earlier he had just been surviving the day. Now, victory was sure, irrespective of what challenges the remainder of the day might bring.
All of us have urgent crises scattered through our days. They call for our undivided attention and quickly wear us down. How is it that they have the power to intimidate us so that a simple break or even a lapse of attention seems an unreasonable luxury? Amazingly, David, with his life on the line, perceives the presence of the Lord and finds the focus to step away from the urgency of the moment for a heavenly encounter. That choice served not to hinder his effectiveness. Instead, it ensured his success.
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